Here are some tips for tagging questions. These guidelines will help you more accurately tag your questions, which in turn will help them get more attention and lead to better answers faster.

For more information, see "What are tags, and how should I use them?" in the Help Center.

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One easy way of finding that out would be to run this question as a 'poll': have each of those 6 bullet points as a separate answer, then people can vote up/down as they see fit. And more suggestions can be added. What do you think? –  Bobby Jack Oct 23 '08 at 14:04
Not in this case. For sofaq posts it's a community wiki: if you have a suggestion or criticism comment about it and someone else will implement it (never implement your own suggestions- you want at least one confirmation first). –  Joel Coehoorn Oct 23 '08 at 14:09
Right, just frustrating for those of us who cannot edit and hate comments! I'll work within these restrictions though. –  Bobby Jack Oct 23 '08 at 14:11
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2 Answers

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Effective Tags - Bring more attention to your question

  • Pick tags that show higher counts in the look-ahead prompts, as they are more likely to make your question appear highlighted for a user on the main page or show up in someone's RSS feed.
  • At a minimum, try to include at least one very broad tag (i.e., java or c#) and one other tag to narrow the topic down within that broader category (i.e., strings or garbage-collection).
  • You are limited to 5 tags, and you are generally better off trying to use all 5 of them (if there are 5 appropriate matches among existing tags).
  • Try to use broad tags. For example, you usually want to include the version with the .NET tag rather than the language. While tagging a question c#2.0 might convey exactly the information you intend (it implies C#, .NET, and version 2.0 all in one tag), tagging it .net c# .net2.0 will bring your question lots more attention, since more people will watch the generic .net and c# tags. There is of course a trade-off: you used 3 tags to convey the same information you could have done with one. However, it's hard to understate how many more views the generic tags will bring to your question.
  • Each tag should stand on its own: if a tag only makes sense when used in a group with other tags, something is wrong. For example, tagging a question as [visual] [studio] (two tags) is wrong.

Tagging Don'ts

  • Try not to create new tags. If you create a new tag, that tag is guaranteed not to help your question show up on any subscribed RSS feeds or interesting tag lists. Again, the look-ahead prompt can help with this. Odds are it also means you're missing an existing tag for that topic that would more-accurately categorize your question.
  • Don't try to summarize your question using the tags. The point of tags on Stack Overflow is to help other interested persons find your question by sorting it into clear, specific categories. This is not the same as indexing or summarizing the question. The differences are subtle, but important.
  • Don't use your username for a tag.
  • Don't use meta tags. A meta tag is any tag that doesn't categorize the content of the question.


  • Use all lower-case
  • Replaces spaces with dashes (-) to combine multiple words into a single word (i.e, Tag "Unit Testing" as "unit-testing").
  • Avoid punctuation. This can make it difficult to use the tag in a URL
  • A number of tags pre-date the guidelines, and are therefore formatted differently. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't follow these rules.
  • When naming a tag, think about how someone would google that subject. In most cases this means typing out the full name, but you may also want to use the abbreviation. For example, "css" is probably more appropriate than "cascading-style-sheets".


  • Do not re-tag a question if you are not going to add value to the question information by doing it.
  • Do re-tag questions to use well-known and popular tags that are appropriate for the question.
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"If you create a new tag, you are guaranteed to not show up ..." ... if that is the only tag you use. Can we include some guidelines here about format of tags? For example, "sqlserver" or "sql-server"? –  Bobby Jack Oct 23 '08 at 14:09
Fixed the wording there a little, Bobby Jack. Is there a strong enough concensus yet on what the format should look like? –  Joel Coehoorn Oct 23 '08 at 14:12
Formatting of new tags, right? For example, sqlserver has over 1100 questions, probably too many to re-tag them as sql-server if that were desired. –  Dave DuPlantis Oct 23 '08 at 14:16
Well, the guidelines say "Combine multiple words into single-words". I understand that it makes sense to ignore this for certain names (e.g. "mysql" is correct, not "my-sql"!) but "SQL Server"'s name clearly includes a space. –  Bobby Jack Oct 23 '08 at 14:22
@Dave: I don't think we should let a tag be if it's 'wrong', however much it's in use. If it's too big a manual job, it would be a less-than-a-minute job for one of the site owners. –  Bobby Jack Oct 23 '08 at 14:23
You could argue that the presence of the Taxonomist badge encourages people to create new tags: –  insin Oct 23 '08 at 14:26
Sort of. It encourages you to create new good tags. Personally, I think it should be a gold badge, but disqualify all the tags created during the private beta period. –  Joel Coehoorn Oct 23 '08 at 14:31
@Bobby, good point - so maybe it should say (if you must create a new tag) "Combine multiple words into a single word, replacing spaces with dashes, such as sql-server for SQL Server." –  Dave DuPlantis Oct 23 '08 at 14:34
Let's find a different example (one that doesn't point to a real tag that was done incorrectly). –  Joel Coehoorn Oct 23 '08 at 14:36
How 'bout web-development or best-practices, as they're currently the first two dashed tags listed. I was hoping for something shorter and more technical, though. –  Joel Coehoorn Oct 23 '08 at 14:38
unit-testing? Other than that and file-io, everything else looks long. –  Dave DuPlantis Oct 23 '08 at 14:41
I guess one of the reasons I raised the issue was that /something/ needs to be done to resolve the issue of hundreds of tags for "foo-bar" and 1 or 2 tags for "foobar". I've found this happening many times, and clean them up from time to time, but that's not too scalable. I'd like to see a ... –  Bobby Jack Oct 23 '08 at 14:58
... 'synonymous' relationship between relevant tags and/or corrections for badly formatted tags. –  Bobby Jack Oct 23 '08 at 14:59
At some point too, we're going to have to tackle the tricky issue of what to do with, for example, a question specific to php 5.2.5 which will then need to be tagged with "php", "php-5", "php-5.2", and "php-5.2.5" - great, 1 free tag! Unless more implicit info. is stored somewhere, this will be a .. –  Bobby Jack Oct 23 '08 at 15:02
... problem (I've already seen similar examples; take a look at the number of posts with "sql", "server", "sqlserver", "sqlserver2008", ... etc.) –  Bobby Jack Oct 23 '08 at 15:03
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Is There a Standard for Tag Names?

  • Please do not re-tag a question if you are not going to add valuable information by doing it.

  • Please do not use tags as an attention-getting-device if you don't have sufficient privileges in the system (i.e., adding [belongs-on-serverfault]).

  • Please do not use the "duplicate" tag or any other tag that does not contribute to categorizing the question, including [not-programming-related]. These kinds of tags are known as meta-tags; more information about them can be found here.

  • Multi-word tags should have the words separated by a dash, unless it is a proper name that does not have a space between the words. (I.e., [sql-server] and [mysql] are correct)

  • Avoid creating new tags, if at all possible. Double-check your spelling if necessary. Some tags could have local variations (i.e., color or colour), some are predominantly singular or predominantly plural (i.e., color or colors), and some may have synonyms with completely different spellings (i.e., newbie or beginner). If a similar concept tag is already available, please do not create a new tag: use the existing tag instead. The goal is to categorize your question.

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